How Academic Denial May Hide Christianophobia
By George Yancey
Recent research has revealed interesting facts about academic bias against political conservatives and libertarians. While being a Christian is not the same thing as being a political conservative, there are lessons to be learned here about Christianophobia in academia.
Consider, for example, the study titled “Political Diversity Among Social Psychologists” by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers. Unsurprisingly, they found that social psychologists are very politically progressive. However, they also found that more than half of the respondents were willing to discriminate against political conservatives in various ways: how they review their articles, how they review their grant applications and whether to hire them. It’s astounding that academics were so willing to overtly state that they would engage in such discrimination.
But what is really surprising is the answer these academics gave when asked whether there is a hostile environment against political conservatives in academia. Generally their answer was no: they did not perceive such hostility to exist. The same respondents, who just a few questions ago stated that they would discriminate against political conservatives, were apparently oblivious to how such discrimination would create a hostile environment towards them. Shouldn’t social psychologists know about the perilous effects of occupational discrimination?
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Why then are these social scientists blind to the discrimination they are willing to perpetrate on their more conservative peers? I believe it is because they have a social identity of themselves — that is, they see themselves in relation to others — as being relatively more tolerant and non-judgmental than others. We all tend to hide our shortcomings from ourselves. In this, social psychologists are no different than the rest of us. But people are especially likely to hide shortcomings that expose a key way we define ourselves as better than others. These social psychologists’ progressive social identity informs them that being intolerant is a vice practiced by others whom they do not like, such as political conservatives. They likely see themselves as moral because they are (in their own social identity) by nature more tolerant than those conservatives. So they have extra psychological incentive not to see their own intolerance.
I reflect on this lack of introspection as I think about anti-Christian attitudes in academia…
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